Have you ever used the “short straw” method for choosing teams, who goes first or last, or who does the dirty work?
Well, scientists have discovered the “short straw” so-to-speak of the genetic code for happiness. If you happen to have one or two copies of the short version of the 5-HTT gene, you are more likely to be a glass half-empty kind-of person. Folks with one or two copies of the “long-straw” version are more likely to embrace a glass half-full worldview.
(The study results determined “33% of the variation in happiness is explained by genes” so maybe the glass should be described as one-third full or one-third empty . . .)
I first read about this new discovery in a May 6 article written by Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor of the British newspaper “The Independent”. Laurance referenced the new study in the Journal of Human Genetics.
“Jan-Emmanual De Neve, a behavioural economist at the London School of Economics, which led the study, said: ‘In five or 10 years, people will be able to read their genome. If you find you have a predisposition to see the glass as half empty then when you feel down, you may think ‘Maybe my biology is fooling me into thinking my situation is less rosy than it is.’ That combined with your own will power may help you get out of the psychological dip and go above and beyond. Knowledge is power.'”
“The 5-HTT gene, which regulates the brain chemical serotonin, has been indirectly linked with happiness before. In research published in 2009, scientists showed that people with the long version of the gene had a subliminal tendency to avoid negative images and select positive ones. They concluded that the gene contributed to ‘attentional bias in the selection of emotional stimuli’.”
The repercussions of these findings are interesting and endless. For starters, people with long 5-HTTs will no longer have an excuse for being grumpy:-), and the “short straw” population can receive some comfort from knowing that in a world more focused than ever on the pursuit of happiness that their perspective of choice, is well, not really their choice at all. Instead it is a genetic pre-disposition, which most likely can be counter-balanced by the oodles of positive psychology tips and techniques shared on this blog and around the world. As researcher Jan-Emmanual De Neve noted “knowledge is power”, and I think this new information provides a worldwide win-win situation. (I wonder if my positive outlook is the result of effort or a long 5-HTT. Only time and a good DNA test will tell.)
Here’s the really exciting aspect of this research, soon researchers will undoubtedly begin looking for the “short-straw” people, who report high levels of life satisfaction, to learn how they do it. Studying the lives of these folks will help us create an interesting, road-tested map to well-being, which over time could be used to shift the majority of perspectives to at half or maybe two-thirds full.
A shift to well-being. I like that.
To read a more detailed article about the findings click here.